Last week I was all excited about an article showing a connection between schools with playgrounds and higher math scores. As it happens, at the very same time there was another news report about higher test scores. This one linked them to gum.
The first article I read, from the LA Times, explained:
The study was conducted by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and was sponsored by the Wrigley Science Institute. The study included 108 students, ages 13 to 16, who were assigned either to chew sugar-free gum during math class, while doing math homework and during math tests, or to refrain from gum-chewing. After 14 weeks, the students took a math test and their grades were assessed.
The result was increased test scores for the gummy kids on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills achievement test. The increase was small — only 3% — but the National Post says it was statistically significant. Several articles drew the connection that chewing gum can lower stress, and that may have helped with the testing.
The National Post article turned out to be one of the more detailed ones that I ran across (explaining, for example, that the gum-chewers chewed gum 86% of the time in school and 36% of the time while doing homework) and it shared a fact that I didn’t see in many other articles: there were TWO standardized tests given, not just one. The other standardized test was the Woodcock Johnson III Tests of Achievement, and on this test there was no statistically significant difference in the scores of those who chewed gum and those who didn’t.
Furthermore, when I looked further, I found this nutrition site that revealed that the course grades for both groups actually decreased over time, although the gum chewers had less of a decrease. So all in all, it’s kind of interesting but perhaps not worth the hype of headlines like “Chewing Gum Improves Math Scores… No Lie” and “Teenage Brain Power Boosted by Chewing Gum: Wrigley Study”.
Isn’t that a gross photo at the top? That’s Bubblegum Alley in my hometown [photo taken by Samir and posted on wiki under Creative Commons License]. When I was about 10 a friend and I wrote “Sit on It” in gum on the wall of Bubblegum Alley. We felt very sneaky.